COVID-19: Firm accuses IGP of frustrating judgment to unseal Kano rice mill

A rice processing factory in Kano state, Tiamin Rice Limited, has accused the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu and the Kano State Commissioner of Police of frantic efforts to frustrate the enforcement of a judgment by the Federal High Court in Abuja, which ordered the immediate reopening of the factory sealed by the Kano state government.

Tiamin Rice Limited, Tiamin Multi Services Global and Alhaji Aliyu Ibrahim (the judgement creditors) who are owners of the rice factory, made the allegation in a counter-affidavit they filed in respect of a request by the IGP and Kano CP, in which they sought to either stay or set aside the judgment delivered by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja on May 4, 2020.

In the counter-affidavit, the judgement creditors equally accused the police chief and the Kano CP of frustrating efforts to rescue staff trapped in the factory since it was forcefully sealed by agents of the state government in April, 2020.

The Tiamin Rice processing factory, located at C14 AA Shehu House, Amana City, Zaria Road, Kano was sealed by the state government, claiming that it was too close to an isolation centre created for COVID-19 patients.

Consequently, Tiamin Rice Ltd, Tiamin Multi Services Global and Alhaji Aliyu Ibrahim approached the court to challenge the state government’s action in a fundamental rights enforcement suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/448/2020, filed before the Federal High Court, Abuja in view of the lockdown occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic and other preventive measures put in place by the federal government.

In the judgment on May 4, Justice Abang had faulted the Kano state government’s decision to seal the factory; and ordered its immediate unsealing and awarded the sum of N300million damages in favour of the applicants (the judgement creditors.

The court had held that the closure of the factory, without a valid court order, violated the rights of the applicants and the exemption accorded food production companies by the Federal Government.

Rather than comply with the judgment, the IGP and Kano CP filed a fresh motion on May 15, 2020 asking the court to either stay the execution of the judgment or set it aside.

They claimed that the lockdown announced by the Federal Government prevented them from participating in the earlier hearing conducted in the case, which lead to the May 4 judgment.

But in their counter affidavit, the applicants queried the interest of the IGP and the Kano CP in seeking to frustrate the execution of the judgment that do not directly affect them.

They argued that the new motion was not only designed by the IGP and the Kano CP to frustrate the execution of the judgment, it was an abuse of the court’s process since they have already filed a notice of appeal against the judgment.
The applicants added that the conduct of the IGP and the Kano CP “are, on the facts of this case, a direct challenge to the authority of the court and it demonstrates impunity, showing that they have the right to ignore and dare the court.

“They have shown inhuman treatment to innocent employees of the judgment creditors trapped in the facility since 18th April 2020.

“The judgment debtors do not care even for the lives and welfare of staff for these innocent trapped and locked up in the factory premises.”

They prayed the court to reject the fresh motion by the IGP and the Kano CP, and ordered them to comply with the judgement given on May 4 failing which they would be liable to be held for contempt.

At Thursday’s proceedings, counsel to the judgment creditors, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) said he had served the judgment debtors, including the IGP and the Kano CP with his clients’ counter-affidavit.

Lawyer to the IGP and Kano CP, Celestine Odo confirmed being served, but sought a short time to enable him file a reply.
Although the Kano State Government and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) are also judgment debtors in the case, they were not represented in court on Thursday.

In a ruling, Justice Abang ordered that hearing notice be served on the Kano State Government and the NSCDC through email, in view of the existing inter-state lockdown.

Subsequently, Justice Abang adjourned the suit till May 27, 2020 for the hearing of the IGP’s application.

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